Yearly Archives: 2012

Curveballs, naked emperors and BS: post-election reflections of a reporter

German philosopher Max Weber said, “Politics is the art of compromise.”

And, Weber might have added: Elections are the art of exaggeration. We at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting spent much of the spring and summer checking out the claims of the three major candidates for U. S. senate, focusing mostly on what they said they had done to fix the economy and promote jobs. What we found, with some modest exceptions, had more spin on it than a Sandy Koufax (you call look him up) curveball. But there’s more to be learned from politicians “practiced in the art of deception,” to quote the Rolling Stones, which I like to do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now that the votes have been (mostly) counted, the TV ads silenced and the pundits (there are so many) either crowing or eating crow, we thought we’d try to find some broader meaning from our months of reporting. Continue Reading →

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Analysis – Ignore the pundits and polls; go vote

Uncle Sam

As we finally approach Election Day, many people are so tired of the campaigns that they ask plaintively, “Are we there yet?”

Throughout a long campaign, we have been treated to daily analyses about who’s ahead to the point where it becomes an almost meaningless blur. We get three kinds of comments: pundits, polls and predictions. Pundits are people who we are supposed to believe possess some kind of special insight about politics. On any given day, they seem sure of their outlooks about the campaigns. One of their favorite words is “momentum,” though they seem to have different meanings in mind. Continue Reading →

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King’s laptops leveled playing field, but academic benefits hard to assess

At Freeport Middle School, students in algebra class play “Battleship” on their laptops as they learn to plot coordinates on a graph. At Massabesic Middle School, eighth-graders surf the web on their laptops to create their own National History Day websites. And at King Middle School, students carry their laptops into the field as they chronicle the civil rights movement through eyewitness interviews. These students don’t live in a high-tech mecca like Silicon Valley, but in the nation’s most rural state, where state tax money pays for one white Apple MacBook for every seventh- and eighth-grader in public schools. Laptops from mcpir3
More than 10 years ago, Angus King, then Maine’s governor and now a U.S. Senate candidate, pushed the $10- to $11-million-a-year program through a reluctant legislature.  King sold it as a way to give the state a competitive edge and provide computers to low-income students. Continue Reading →

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Rep. Martin, partner buy back bankrupt store for less than half of the debt

Bald Eagle Store

The federal bankruptcy court has allowed State Rep. John Martin and a partner to buy back their Eagle Lake convenience store for $125,000 even though they owe almost $300,000 to a variety of creditors, including the IRS. Martin, a Democrat, has been a power in state government going back to the 1960s. He was speaker of the house an unprecedented 10 terms and currently serves on the committee with oversight of the state’s $6 billion budget. He is running for reelection from House District 1, which includes Eagle Lake and Fort Kent. While some creditors may be paid in full and others in part, some may not be paid at all, depending on a report from the trustee appointed by the court half way through the court proceedings. Continue Reading →

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Learn how to be your own watchdog!

As investigative reporters we use lots of tools to find out things. Our new website, “Be Your Own Watchdog,” is where we hand those tools over to you so you can figure out for yourself how our government works. Staff from the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting will be at the Winslow Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 to introduce “Be Your Own Watchdog” and talk about investigative reporting in Maine. Come learn about how reporters at the Center dig for stories, and then take home some of those investigative tools yourself! Continue Reading →

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Bloomberg’s Maine Man

King NY

When New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week that he’d be founding a Super PAC and spending some of his money in Maine in support of Angus King, the Independent candidate for U.S. Senate was as startled as anyone. “I can tell you without any equivocation that I had no idea he was going to do this Super PAC thing,” King said. “Mayor Bloomberg’s made this decision without any request from me.”

King has met Bloomberg just three times: once at a centrist summit in Oklahoma in 2008, once last week for a fundraiser at the Mayor’s private residence, and once during a 45-minute meeting on a visit this summer to New York City. “We talked about schools, we talked about centrist politics…. It wasn’t in great depth, but it was substantive,” King said in an interview Friday. Continue Reading →

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Dill, Summers, King: Tough questions, candid interviews

The most important issues for voters in this election are jobs and the economy. As part of our series about the U.S. Senate race in Maine, “Setting the Record Straight,” the Center’s reporters have conducted in-depth interviews with the top three candidates about their records of job creation and economic development. Reporters Matt Drange, John Christie and Naomi Schalit pose the hard questions and track down the important details with candidates Cynthia Dill, Charlie Summers and Angus King. We videotaped those interviews, and you can see them below. Continue Reading →

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Governor and Democratic leader announce plans to fix state ethics

Gov. Paul LePage — Photo Robert F. Bukaty, BDN

AUGUSTA — Two of the state’s top political leaders are vowing a bipartisan effort to make government ethics, accountability and transparency key issues in the upcoming legislative session. Republican Gov. Paul LePage and House Democratic leader Emily Cain are responding to a national report that gave Maine government an “F” for its potential for corruption. Maine ranked 46th in the “State Integrity Investigation” by three nonpartisan good government groups that was released in mid-March. Cain, the Democratic House leader who is running for a Senate seat from Orono, has proposed two linked initiatives that she hopes will lead to government ethics reform. Cain said Tuesday she will ask her fellow lawmakers to form a bipartisan, joint select committee to consider ethics reform and report out a bill in the legislative session that begins in January, 2013. Continue Reading →

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King cites his $900m tax break program as a job creator

The number one issue on voters’ minds this year is jobs. Angus King, the leading candidate in the U. S. Senate race, claims as governor he helped create jobs in Maine with some of his policies, including a program called BETR. BETR stands for Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement. Until King became governor, businesses had to pay property taxes on equipment they purchased, from paper-making machines to computers. In 1995, then-Gov. King persuaded the legislature that if the state gave the taxes back to the businesses, businesses would expand and create jobs for Mainers. Continue Reading →

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